Another extremely proud weekend for our Academy that saw no fewer than seven graduates featuring in our first team’s Danske Bank Premiership away win over second placed Ballymena United. The boys in question were James McCarthy and Paul O’Neill. (who both started) and Sean Og Gallagher, Malachy Smith, Paul McLaughlin, Jack Henderson and Sean Wallace who were all on the bench. Their fellow Academy graduate Jamie Glover, who picked up an injury in Northern Ireland’s Centenary Shield win over Scotland last Thursday, made an excellent first team debut the previous week at home against Ards.
This selection of Photographs demonstrates just how young some of these lads were when they began their careers at Glentoran. Look out in particular for the baby faces of Mal Smith, Paul McLaughlin and Sean Og Gallagher as well as Ethan Warnock who is now with Everton, having made his first team Glens debut away to Ballinamallard in December 2016.
In addition to these lads, our former long-term Academy player Barry Baggley made his first team debut for Fleetwood Town while Caolan Boyd-Munce – who made his senior debut at home to Crusaders in April 2016 before departing for Birmingham City – joined current first teamers Nathan Kerr and Cricky Gallagher in last week’s Northern Ireland U21 squad.
If we include Willie Garrett and Callum Birney who are also Academy graduates, there are now no fewer than ten Academy graduates who are currently members of the first team panel.
So far this season, teenage players have played a total 3,864 first team minutes for Glentoran, a perfect example of an Academy production line working at its very best.
Academy Manager Stephen Lowry: “Success stories like these are what makes it all worthwhile as an Academy coach and manager. These are a coach’s real trophies when working in youth football. The boys’ parents and their different coaches over the years deserve immense credit for helping them reach this stage but of course at the end of the day it’s down them in terms of their talent and the application they have to show to get there. These lads have done that and more and are fully deserving of their chance now. I just hope they get in and stay there as I know what they are capable of and can really help the first team get back up the table. They are still young of course and need to be given time. Our academy is in a very strong position now, brimming with talent and hopefully the fans will start to see more young lads breaking through soon. We need another wave, it’s been too long since our last golden generation of Kirk, Elliot, Leeper, Nixon and co and I genuinely see the potential for that coming through the system now. It makes we coaches feel old remembering these lads join as little cubs as young as seven years of age and to see where they are now is unbelievable. So, my advice to them is keep working hard, make the most of the opportunities and enjoy every moment of it!”
Paul O’Neill’s magnificent goal against Ballymena on Saturday is hopefully the beginning of something special, if you haven’t seen it yet check out our match report for the highlights and enjoy! Everyone at Glentoran Academy is extremely proud of this latest crop of talented young players and are extremely thankful to the lads and their parents for their loyalty and dedication over the years.